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The 'classic' Jersey sub

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  • jesskidden Feb 19, 2005 01:55 PM
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I grew up in Central NJ and still live in the area. Now, having also lived in upstate NY, Mass, LA, etc., I *know* the submarine sandwich is regional and has many other names and variations, BUT, in New Jersey, at least, it *used* to have a standard definition- sold half or whole, on a long "sub roll" (Italian bread, but not too hard), with lettuce, tomato, onion, oil & vinegar, salt, pepper & other seasonings. Meats and cheese listed by number . Cheese should be provolone standard with the option of some other cheese. That's a "sub". NOT that you can't get other things on it (I confess to liking a touch of mayo on roast beef or turkey, some folks opt for hot peppers, etc.) OR deleted (too many shops cut up their onions too far in advance and, exposed to the air, they oxidize and get too bitter).

Recently moved to northern Monmouth County and changed jobs, so we no longer get subs at the "usual" places (Tastee in Edison, various shops in South River, Mike's down the shore, White House any time we're even near AC, etc) and have found that all of a sudden it seems I have to tell the sandwich makers HOW to make a sub. I've been asked or had to specify that I want lettuce, tomato, onions and oil and vinegar on the sub, have gotten Balsamic vinegar (turns the bread an ugly brown) and was even asked "What kind of bread?" once (I wanted to say "white toast!").

Today, when I got a Turkey sub with provolone and asked for a little mayo PLUS everything else, I luckily caught the guy about to wrap up my sandwich WITHOUT lettuce, tomato or onion and he still didn't add the oil and vinegar. Hey, without that stuff it's just a turkey sandwich on Italian bread.

I don't know- is it just my bad luck or the influence of the chain shops or "gourmet" shops? Shouldn't a sub have a standard, with only additions or subtractions specified?

(I won't even mention the time I was driving around LA in the mid-70's, spotted a place advertising "NYC style Submarine Sandwichs", bought one and got this, this THING on a hot dog roll, some meat, american cheese and RELISH!)

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  1. Welcome to Monmouth!

    I am no expert on subs, but here is what I know about subs in the Middletown area.

    Jersey Mikes, Middletown - Not excellent, but not bad if you're nearby. The "Number 5" is a classic Italian sub and if you order it "Mike's way" you get OV, spices, S&P, lettuce, tomato, onion.

    Slaters, Leonardo. I like the Slaters on RT 36, not the one on RT 35. I've never ordered their subs, but their regular sandwiches are good. I like their homemade tuna. Despite the name, I think they are an Italian-type shop. They take a lot of pride in their work.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Val Ann C

      OK, I'm from Northenr Monmouth as well. At this time my favorite subs come from the Sunrise Deli on RT. 36 in Union Beach(just before the McDonalds). Great bread and pretty good deli meats. You do have to tell them what you want on it though..... My favorite is what I consider a "sub", Boiled Ham, Salami and Provolone. I like them with 'everything' Lettuce, Tomato, Onion and Oil & Vinegar, as well as "seasoning" which HAAS to have dried oregano!!!! I also like Mike's in Keyport, but while they taste great , are kind of skimpy on the fillings. If you happen to try the Sunrise let me know what you think!

      1. re: Bob

        Whitehouse is the best, been there since the 50's. My late Aunt had a small luncheonette in Ventnor in the 50's, knew the original family and they taught her how to make a REAL Submarine! I helped out when I could, the only place to get bread was the AC Bakery or Formica's on Arctic Ave in AC.
        (BTW - the bread MUST be 'gutted' before starting the fillings, just slice it horizontally and dig out all that nice white fluffy stuff.)
        NOW - A branch of the family, the Saccos, opened a Sub Shop in Ventnor in the 60's and they are EXACTLY like the Whitehouse.
        Now they have opened a branch in Absecon on the WHP-Sack O' SUBS.
        I haven't lived there in over 30 years, but will not pass up the chance to get a REAL Sub if I am ever in the neighborhood.
        PS When we go "down the shore", we always stop at either Sacco's or the WH and have a hot sausage sub for lunch and take home 2 regulars 'packed to travel' (oil on the side) and enjoy them for dinner.
        MMMMMMMmmmm, Good!

        1. re: grannypnut

          Saccos also opened up in Ocean City at 9th and asbury. I do like their subs better than WH.Also in Ocean City and a few other towns is Primos their subs ar second to none. Their are a few sub places around that always ask if you want l/t & o's with that and I always say that without them it's just a ham and cheese on a roll isn't it?????

    2. "Elsie's Subs" on Monmouth Street in Red Bank. The "classic" Jersey Sub since the early to mid 1960's.

      If "Elsie's" isn't there anymore, someone aproach me with a sound business plan and I may entertain an idea.

      1. Sorrento's in Freehold on Business Rt. 33 (a few minutes from Freehold Raceway Mall) is what I believe the best sub shop for my money (Whitehouse in AC included). Like Whitehouse, expect to wait on line for your sub, especially if you arrive between 12 pm and 2 pm.

        1. IF you're ever in Westfield, try Duke's subs on South avenue. Many varieties, with or without Russian dressing. As you say, hard to find subs like this outside NJ. One full-length sub like this used to feed our family of 6 when we were growing up.

          1. Thanks for all the recommendations- altho' "Monmouth County" is pretty big and I'm in the NW corner near Middlesex & Mercer AND a sub for lunch is something one usually doesn't travel long distances for- used to be every sandwich shop, pizza joint or "deli"* made an "OK" sub (altho' with the disappearance of a lot of bakeries, I suppose just getting good rolls is difficult these days).

            I think my "rant" was more of an annoyance to see a classic sandwich, the "cold sub**", being upgraded/gourmet-ized/customized (whatever...), especially by these chains from elsewhere, out of existance.

            I don't know, I'm just finding it troubling to not be able to get a "typical" sub WITHOUT having to EXPLAIN what I want/what a sub USED to be. It's rather like asking for a plain pizza and have the guy ask, "Do you want that on round dough, topped with sauce and cheese and seasonings?" or ask for a cheeseburger and being asked "What kind of bread? You want a beef patty with that?".

            I'm all for variation, local customs, etc., but just think they should be something ADDED/DELETED by REQUEST to the "classic" ingridients. Otherwise, it just becomes ANY sandwich served on a "sub roll".

            * Hey, that's another rant- what's with all these places popping up with a few rolls of factory-made cold cuts and a couple of plastic buckets of "salads" calling themselves a "deli"? Heck, some of them are even attached to gas stations. I don't know, in NJ, it just doesn't seem "right" to buy food at a gas station.

            * "cold sub" as opposed to the "hot sub", of course, which have always been most anything served on the sub roll. (My favorite was a Boston area specialty- the crab meat sub., which was served hot with melted cheese and cost about $8- in the mid-70's, when a NJ sub probably went for two bucks or so...)

            1. I'm completely with you on the content, but when did we start calling them subs? I thought we called them hoagies. I've got flawless Jersey Girl/Philly Gal creds, and for the life of me they were always called hoagies regardless of where I lived.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Ellen

                Huh. Nope. Subs.

                1. re: Deb Van D

                  I know this thread was from a week ago, but just read it and had to put my 2 cents in. :-)

                  I grew up in northern NJ, and we always called them hoagies as well, although there were a couple of places that called them subs as well. Didn't regularly call them subs until I moved out of NJ (central PA and now, in Massachusetts).

                  1. re: Linda W.

                    again, i realize this is REALLY old now...But why else would Princeton's shop be called Hoagie Haven?!

                    1. re: claire

                      Well, I don't know that the existance of one business in a town partially populated with students from all over the country is much proof that "hoagie" predominates over "sub" in NJ (seems I could find many more "sub shops" in any local phone book) but, yeah, I will agree that the there is much overlap and no strict bondaries between the "hoagie" "sub(marine)" "grinder" "hero" etc. areas of the Northeast.

                      Seems I've read both the White House Sub Shop in Atlantic City and some place near Groton, CT. claim to have originated the term "submarine"- CT's because they made and delivered sandwiches to the nearby shipbuilding companies during WWII and White House because some of AC's hotels were used as hospitals by the Navy during WWII. And there's another story at the link below...

                      and a map (which doesn't look like the final word to me) on here...

                      http://www.parallaxshift.com/~kiddo/l...

                      Link: http://whatscookingamerica.net/Histor...

              2. My husband and I go to "Just Subs" at least once a week for take-out (dinner). After reading your post, I think it satisfies all of your requirements. They are located on 206 in Hillsborough but I know they have two other locations (I think one is in Clinton).